Artists Archives: Cullen Washington

TokesPlace Presents:


The Hero’s Journey

11 Sep

Tokes’ Place is privileged to present an abstract of The Hero’s Journey by up and coming artist Cullen Washington Jr.

The entire show will be presented at The Museum of National Center of Afro-American Artists in October 2009. Each work is packed with diverse visual narratives, textures, colors and a plurality of images that are barely approximated in this online show. I hope they whet your appetite to visit the show in Boston. His And They Shall be Fishers of Men always receives admiring remarks from visitors to my place. Here is his artist statement.


In The Hero‘s Journey I created allegorical satires featuring heroic archetypes from pop culture and African spirituality. In other instances, blackness serves as an algorithmic lattice for constructing a positive framework for living. These notions reveal my thoughts on blackness and my unfolding personal journey as the hero.

The Hero’s Journey is a response to the continued critique of my work within the confines of race. The image of blackness in art expands far beyond the limitations of that social construct. For this reason, I continue to paint images of blackness that address universal matters. My intention is to subvert negative associations of black males in current social consciousness; to transcend ideas of race so that blackness becomes a metaphor for positive notions of humanity; and to rejuvenate the importance of myth and hero in society.

I conjured the images and narratives of this show using photomontage, collage, drawing and painting. Urban debris, charcoal drawings and photo references from my hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana are injected onto the pictorial surface to establish grit, fantasy and memory. Unstretched canvas served as the substrate to support the rigorous application of materials as I created with my hand and body. The visceral surface of each piece requires the viewers’ physical engagement. Complex content pushes the viewer back and then compels them forward to understand its macro and micro narratives. The images here present a sample of the complete show.”

Hulk Don’t Smash

Medium: charcoal, acrylic, paper and found object on canvas
Dimensions: 71 x 54

This This work depicts a majestic young Black Male’s face on the body of a hulkish form. The intent is to associate Black Male identity with that of the super strength of the comic book hero The Incredible Hulk. The context of the new hero lies within a decayed urban background riddled with debris and darkened with a black sky.


Dynomite in My Room
Medium: charcoal, paper, acrylic and found object on canvas
Dimensions: 60 x 103
Date: 2008

This work references the pop cultural character JJ Evans from the 70’s TV sitcom “Good Times“. As an American Hero, he triumphs over his unfortunate environment with his artistic talent. The black mire locates him in an urban apartment setting. In this instance, Blackness references the beginnings of the hero’s journey.


The Final Frontier

Medium: charcoal, acrylic and found object on canvas
Dimensions: 83 x 83
Date: 2009


This images plays with the ambiguous metaphor of Blackness as the universe and as city street. This piece couples the paradox of the inner journey of the hero and the outer space voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Located in the lower left corner is a spaceship comprised of a young Black Male’s façade, a Cadillac symbol and sprouting legs.
Query: Could this image also be considered a visual metaphor for black/white relationships?



The Man of Steel
Medium: charcoal, acrylic and found object on canvas
Dimensions: 100 x 72
Date: 2009

This image integrates African Spiritual lore with American pop-culture. The central figure possesses the qualities of both the African deity Ogun (the God of iron, war and justice) with that of Superman. On the left side of the work, the color Black is used as a constructive device to form the universal pyramidal shape. On the left, the pyramid is deconstructed using a discarded cardboard box. See superman detail below.


Mr. Washington is a native of Louisiana and former resident of Atlanta, GA where he achieved notable professional success. Now he is taking his act to the big show in New York City.


His awards, previous shows and examples of other works are available at his web site, www.cwashingtonstudio.com .



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